Shaquille O'Neal has high hopes for the James Harden and Joel Embiid duo but also says there are many unknowns about their potential success, and it's still too early to make any proper assessments. Shaq also dismantled any attempt to compare the two with him and Kobe when they were that dynamic duo in the NBA.
Shaq has high hopes for Harden and Embiid
So far, it seems the James Harden experiment appears to be working since his trade to the Philadelphia 76ers, and all of his new teammates have nothing but good things to say about their new superstar teammate. Joel Embiid looks especially happy for having James Harden around, and the chemistry seems pretty good as of now. But, as we've seen numerous times in the NBA, things can start great at first, however, when losing happens, that is when egos collide, and the relationship can go down south fast.
In his new podcast episode, Shaquille O'Neal reflected on the new dynamic duo and shared what he thinks is the right recipe for success for the two together. The Sixers are Joel Embiid's team, and Harden will have to adjust, and the first thing he needs to do, according to Shaq, is making sure the big men is happy. Creating for Embiid and getting him involved as much as possible will unlock his willingness to contribute on the defensive end, which is essential for any potential success deep in the playoffs.
"What James needs to always do is make sure the big men are fed. If you feed the dog, he will always guard the yard. I said that before I am no pick center, you have to feed me, and then I will do everything else. So Joel gets his 34, Harden gets 27, 28, and every now or then, when you double Joel, kick it to him. It can definitely work, it has been working, but they are still in the honeymoon phase, reality has to kick in. Who is going to take the last shot, whose team is it, that is when all this stuff starts to crip in. Right now, they are playing good, they look good, and it can work. Take care of the big men, he will take care of you, let everyone else feed from that energy. James and Joel will get double-teamed and when they kick it to you, be ready. If that is the case, Philly has a great shot of winning it, period."
Can they make it like Kobe and Shaq?
Obviously, it's too early to make any type of comparisons, but Spice Adams on the show asked Shaq if he feels Harden and Embiid can achieve the status he and Kobe once had. It didn't take long for Shaq to say no simply because of all the years they've been together, and going to the NBA Finals four times is something only a few were able to achieve.
"No not at all, and we won three out of four. They are not in that conversation after one year. Me and Kobe had 8 years of damage together, so no, not even close; stop it. Listen, F**k no."
Everything Shaq said makes absolute sense, and the amount of games we have seen so far from them is not enough to create any type of reasonable conclusion. The playoffs are one month away, allowing them to further improve their chemistry as a duo and as an entire team. The Sixers are looking now like a legitimate contender, and if they remain healthy can create a lot of noise in the eastern conference. Whether we'll view Embiid and Harden them down the line in the same sense as Kobe and Shaq remain to be seen, but they definitely have the potential; whether they will use it or not is solely on them and their ability to make it work.